Magistrates must be screened by The Judicial Merit Selection Commission

H.4665 would require that all candidates for Magistrates office be screened by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) and then have their names sent to the appropriate Senate Delegation. The delegation in turn would pick one candidate from the list of candidates found qualified by the JMSC, and would recommend that candidate for appointment by the Governor.

Under current law a senator recommends a candidate for nomination to the seat in his district, the Senate will vote to nominate, and the Governor will “appoint”, essentially rubber-stamping the senator’s pick.

This bill would take our judicial system further in the wrong direction. Magistrates are one of the few classes of judicial officials which are not unilaterally chosen by the legislature. The 10-member JMSC which is controlled by three legislative leaders already wields a disproportionate amount of influence over South Carolina judges. South Carolina needs more independent judges who are not beholden to the legislators, not less. State officials should be attempting to reform our judicial selection process in line with the federal model (having judges appointed by the executive with the advice and consent of the Senate).

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